Jean Jacqnes Dessalines, emperor of Hayti, born in W. Africa about 1760, killed Oct. 17, 1806. He was brought to Hayti as a slave, and adopted the name of his master. The repeal, Sept. 24, 1791, of the rights of citizenship conferred on people of color by the French national assembly, was followed by a contest between the mulattoes and the planters. During this conflict Dessalines served under Jean Francois on the side of the mulattoes. The commissioners of the French convention having in August, 1793, proclaimed universal freedom, Toussaint l'Ouverture went over to their side. Dessalines followed his fortunes, was made successively colonel and brigadier general, and played an important part in the expulsion of the English from the island. Gen. Leclerc having been sent by Napoleon to Hayti to reestablish slavery, the negroes on his arrival in 1802 took up arms, and Dessalines was made general of division and placed in command of the department of the west. One of his most remarkable feats during the campaign which followed was the defence of the town of St. Marc against Gen. Boudet. When unable to hold out any longer he burned the town, setting fire with his own hand to a palace which he had just constructed for himself.
Though obliged to retreat, he kept up the fight for a considerable time, but was finally forced to surrender. A truce was concluded, May 1, 1802, and while it was still in force Toussaint l'Ouverture was seized and carried to France. The negroes thereupon renewed the conflict, and Dessalines was made commander-in-chief. The French army was attacked by the yellow fever; Leclerc died; and the French were compelled to evacuate the island. Hayti proclaimed its independence, Jan. 1, 1804, and Dessalines was appointed governor general for life. He issued a proclamation in which he rehearsed the grievances Hayti had suffered from the French, and undertook to exterminate the whites who still remained upon the island. On Oct. 8, 1804, he had himself crowned as emperor of Hayti, assuming the title of Jean Jacques I. A constitution was adopted, and he seemed for a time anxious to promote the welfare of his people, and put forth several schemes for the encouragement of immigration of negroes from the United States and Jamaica. But he soon relapsed into cruelty; a conspiracy was formed against him, and he fell into an ambuscade and was killed.
He had great courage and considerable military ability, but in other respects was little more than an ignorant savage, and proved himself one of the most brutal and bloodthirsty monsters that ever wielded power over their fellows.